Despite suffering its first two losses of the season last week, the Syracuse Orange basketball team remains in good shape heading down the stretch. They have traversed the most difficult part of their schedule and still remain in control of their own destiny for an ACC regular season championship. Even with a string of sluggish offensive performances, they remain in position to win every game they play and still display the uncanny ability to make winning plays at the end of games, doing so better than just about every team in the country.
Even though two of the Orange’s final three games of the regular season will come on the road—including a de-facto ACC Championship Game against Virginia—the hardest part of the schedule is over. Syracuse was physically depleted following its thrilling win over Pittsburgh, a common side effect of the physical nature of a Syracuse-Pittsburgh matchup, and they followed up that game with a string of four games in a ten day span, a difficult test for a team that has lacked depth all season. The Orange squeaked out a win against N.C. State before finally falling to Boston College in their first loss of the season. They were then robbed by an egregious call by the referee late against Duke following an impressive comeback after being down six with two minutes to play. However, Syracuse was able to rebound Monday against Maryland and pull out a close win, just as they’ve done so many times before.
Right now, Syracuse needs rest more than anything else. Jump shots from C.J. Fair and Trevor Cooney that were falling earlier in the season haven’t been falling quite as frequently over the last two weeks, and both players could use time to re-energize their legs before the most important part of the season. Jerami Grant’s ailing back and Baye Moussa Keita’s sore knee could also use extra rest to help ensure Syracuse is as healthy as possible when the calendar flips to March. The Orange have four days of rest before their championship game with Virginia, which begins a manageable period of three games in nine days, giving Syracuse substantial amounts of rest heading into the postseason.
If Syracuse can emerge from this break rested and refreshed, they could see a boost in their shooting percentage from recent games, and improvement in their offense from what we’ve seen over the past two weeks could help propel them to an ACC Championship, as well as their second consecutive Final Four. The Orange don’t have the same caliber of defense that carried them to last year’s Final Four, but they do have a stingy defense that improves late in games, which is why they’ve been in position to win every game this season even when the offense struggled. But a more effective offense towards the end of the season will ensure that Syracuse is one of the most dangerous teams in the NCAA Tournament and one of the teams most capable of winning a national championship.
In the grand scheme of things, Syracuse having its undefeated season spoiled by Boston College and losing in controversial fashion against Duke is meaningless. All that matters is that the Orange enter March as healthy and as rested as possible, enabling them to finish the season strong and secure the top seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament, meaning that the road to the Final Four will go through the Orange’s home away from home—Madison Square Garden. Although Syracuse needs to win its remaining games, its schedule is manageable, which should help the Orange play at a high level on both ends of the court. With a stingy defense, an offense that should improve with added amounts of rest, and the uncanny ability to make clutch plays with the game on the line, Syracuse is in great shape heading down the stretch.
Bryan Zarpentine covers Syracuse Orange football and basketball for ChatSports.com. You can follow him on twitter @BZarp and @ChatSyracuse. Also, add him to your network on Google, and keep up with Syracuse at ChatSports.com/Syracuse-Orange.Back to the Syracuse Orange Newsfeed